|Joaquin Phoenix in a still from The Master (2012) dir. Paul Thomas Anderson|
After years of playing second banana to his much more talented older brother River, Joaquin (or Leaf as he was called back then) got his golden opportunity in 1995 playing opposite Nicole Kidman in perhaps one of the filthiest, most deliciously satiric films of that decade; Gus Van Sant's To Die For (1995). He was only 21 when he played a naive and rather idiotic high school student who gets seduced by Kidman's will-do-anything-to-be-famous-even-being-infamous character Susan Stone who convinces him through her lady parts to kill her dimwitted husband (Matt Dillon). After that, there seemed to be a lull in his career with flops like Oliver Stone's U-Turn (1997) and culty 90's bullshit like Clay Pigeons (1998). But then as we all know, he hit it big, and I mean big as the conniving, hedonistic, ego-maniacal, antagonist Commodus in Ridley Scott's Best Picture winning film, Gladiator (2000).
|Joaquin opposite Nicole Kidman in To Die For (1995), jump starting his career at the bold young age of 20.|
As an actor, Joaquin was always a very special presence. Jaded by the Hollywood machine that seemed to claim his brother's life when he was just a teenager, and intelligent enough to bring a forceful yet thoughtful edge to every one of his performances, Joaquin was never an actor who played by the rules, and the roles he chose proved to illustrate that.
One of my favorite performances of his is when he played sexually repressed, and spiritually tortured Abbé de Coulmier in director Philip Kaufman's beautifully decadent and sharply dark interpretation about the life of the Marquis de Sade after his incarceration in Quills (2000). He proved to be as versatile as he was creative, and was unwilling to be compromised by Hollywood.
|Joaquin Phoenix and Kate Winslet in Quills (2000)|
This notion might have been driven too far when he went balls to the wall (no pun intended) with his bizarre 'performance art' stint as a methed-out Rabbi, but now he's back to normal and slated to garner even more awards and nominations in perhaps the most anticipated film of this year; cinematic genius' Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master (2012). Just winning the principle role opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman in such a huge project which is premiering at two of the biggest International Film Festivals (Venice and Toronto) is a huge accomplishment and Joaquin proves time and time again that he's up to scratch and is more than just shtick and idiosyncrasy. People will finally start to take him seriously as the tour-de-force which he is, and will stop comparing him to the legacy left by his brother. Joaquin Phoenix is a filthy, unapologetic, obnoxious, tenacious genius, and talented as all fuck. With The Master (2012), he is well on his way to cinematic god-hood, and I have no doubt that he'll get there sooner rather than later...all we have to do is forget about I'm Still Here (2011) which I basically have, except for that full frontal part.
Below some trailers from his films including The Master (2012).
Trailer for I'm Still Here (2011)
Trailer for To Die For (1995)
Trailer for Walk the Line (2005)
Trailer for Quills (2000)